Derek Newberry

African Perspectives on Challenges for Growth

In its excellent ?Have Your Say? section of the site, BBC News recently wrapped up an open debate on the prospects of Africa’s enterprising youth and the obstacles that may prevent them from realizing their full creative and productive potential. The primarily African respondents had some fascinating insights, and aside from the few that criticized a lack of initiative on the part of young people in the region, most hammered at governmental issues including corruption, bureaucratic hassles and a lack of social programs.

One Zambian contributor had this to say: ?Youths have the skills but there are no jobs and no money to start small business. Skill alone is meaning less. Let the Governments start providing loans/ grants and create jobs for youths otherwise the near future will be affected. On the other hand there are few insinuations which are offering skills to youths more especially orphans who have no one to pay for their fees. Hoping the international conference taking place in Nairobi will tackle the above issues and find lasting solutions. other it will just be another rhetoric which just befits participants with allowances and other stuff.?These comments point to a real issue in the development community of getting past rhetoric that serves to justify greater expenditures on development institutions to actually implement helpful policy. An editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal goes a step further, taking the challenge of cutting red tape for growth as a sign of the uselessness of development projects!

In my mind the WSJ editorial page frequently uses selective evidence and awkward logic to justify bold claims. Of course, the framework through which development initiatives have been launched needs rethinking, but another quote from a Ugandan voice in the BBC debate illustrates the real issues facing many African governments and the interventions that can help?

Eliab writes: ?High interest rates on loans from microfinance institutions and the demand for collateral security in Uganda is ’killing’ the youths endeavors for enterprises of their dreams.? After reading this I ran across an article on a new effort in Uganda to put control of finance squarely in the hands of the BOP. The consensus point is an obvious one; there is plenty of entrepreneurial potential in Africa- there simply needs to be the proper regulatory environment and interventions to encourage its development. Just ask these guys. (Thanks to Christine for these great links!)